ABBA makes a comeback after 40 years

Album “Voyage” resonates to mixed reviews


Photo: Baillie Walsh, Universal Music / NTB
ABBA is still going strong after 40 years. The group was formed in 1972. Pictured from left to right are: Björn Ulvaeus (76), Agneta Fältskog (71), Anni-Frid Lyngstad (75), and Benny Andersson (74).


ABBA, the Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1972 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Norwegian-born Anni-Frid Lyngstad, has released its first album in 40 years on Nov. 5 to mixed reviews around the world.

The album “Voyage” is the group’s ninth album, but the first since the band disbanded after the previous album “The Visitors” in 1982.

Expectations have been high since the news of the new recording, described as a historic music event, and two tracks from it were released already two months ago.

In addition, during the next few years, the group will appear on stage as “abbots”—three-dimensional projections of themselves in younger versions— in the concert performance “ABBA Voyage,” which premieres in London in May.

Mixed reception

Many critics are positive, even very positive, but the overall critical reception has been very mixed.

“Otherwise, thank you for the music,” wrote the British newspaper The Guardian, which gave the album two out of five stars. “The glamour you would expect after two fantastic singles is wildly unredeemed,” the newspaper wrote.

Rolling Stone, on the other hand, was thrilled.

“It is definitely a surprise that the Swedes are back in the fight. But it is a bigger, and even better, surprise that they have returned with so much musical juice and power,” they wrote, giving the album four stars.

Norway’s NRK recognized the nostalgic appeal of the new album: “‘Voyage’ is ABBA as we know them. Fans will definitely feel taken care of, and if there are any brand-new listeners, they will probably be captivated by this album. 

About comparisons with their pop classics such as “Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Mamma Mia,” Benny Andersson said to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter: “What is the worst thing that can happen, that people think we were better before? But what then!” he added.

The Swedish newspaper Expressen called the album “an adult and dignified collection,” while Jan Gradvall at Sweden’s Di weekend believes that none of the 10 songs on the album will be a big hit song.

“There is nothing here that meets the criteria for how modern pop should sound to spread on the streaming services,” he wrote.

In Denmark, Ekstra Bladet described the  new album as a “belly flop,” and gave it three out of six stars. Reviewer Thomas Teo acknowledged that there is nothing wrong with its voice and musicality.

“But it does not work properly,” he wrote. “The magic is gone. The time of miracles is over.”

Digital ABBA

If the music is compared with old greatness, “ABBA Voyage” is something completely new. In the concert production, the audience will see three-dimensional hologram versions of the four original members.

Industrial Light & Magic, a special effects company started by Star Wars creator George Lucas, has worked with the group on the project. ABBA came up with the avatar idea, and the music followed.

In 2018, the group confirmed rumors that they had recorded at least two new songs.

“At first there were only two songs, and then we said, ‘Well, maybe we should make some more, what do you girls think?’ and they said yes,” Benny Andersson explained when the album was released. 

“Voyage” will be the group’s last album, as confirmed by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson in an interview with The Guardian in late October.

Translated by Lori Ann Reinhall

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 19, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå), the Norwegian News Agency, is a press agency and wire service that serves most of the largest Norwegian media outlets. The agency is located in Oslo and has bureaus in Brussels, Belgium, and Tromsø in northern Norway